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Support After the Death of a Child

Bereavement counselor Bev Wennogle

Bereavement counselor Bev Wennogle

Of all the terrible shades of mourning, none is darker than the grief that attends the death of one’s own child.

“It’s one of our overriding principles that we’re not supposed to outlive our children,” says Bev Wennogle, a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) with Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice. “You’ve not only lost someone you love, your assumptive view of the world, and of your life, has changed.”

That burden can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be carried alone. On the first Thursday evening of every month, Wennogle leads “Support after the Death of a Child,” a group offering grieving parents a chance to share the load with people who know its dreadful weight.

“In the outside world you can’t expect anyone to understand,” Wennogle says. “That can be very isolating. The beautiful thing about this group is that you can say ‘I wailed,’ and everybody knows exactly what you mean. We offer bereaved parents a safe and comfortable place to share their experiences in an atmosphere of open acceptance, mutual respect and absolute confidentiality. The only things our parents give each other are support and understanding. There’s no judgment here.”

Indeed, one important function of the bereavement group is to help its members dispel the hard judgments they too often place on themselves. Sometimes consciously, sometimes only in their secret hearts, parents might come to blame themselves for the tragedy that befell their child. They may feel as if they failed in the most important duty of their lives, and become drawn into the futile and self-destructive maze of “what if?”

“What if I’d done something differently? What if I’d said something? What if I’d been there? It’s easy to get sidetracked.”

And it’s too easy to believe that the natural emotional, physical, cognitive and social consequences of profound sadness are yet more evidence of personal failure. In Wennogle’s group, parents discover that there are as many ways to grieve as there are souls in anguish, and that if there’s no way around their pain, there’s no reason they shouldn’t find their own path through it.

“Grief affects everyone differently, and you can’t judge your own grief against anyone else’s” Wennogle explains. “Some parents can’t even look at a picture of their lost child. Some parents have pictures of them all over the house. When a parent says they have trouble even getting out of bed, it’s important for them to know they’re not crazy. You have to go with your instincts and do what’s right for you.”

And the fact is, “Support After the Death of a Child” isn’t right for every grieving parent. Wennogle asks that potential members sit down with her in a more private setting where she can help them assess which kind of support most effectively addresses their unique shade of grief.

“The group may not be right for you, but you should call anyway. Mount Evans has a wonderful staff of bereavement counselors who are always ready to talk to you on the phone or in person. They can help you rise above the unfathomable sadness that follows the loss of your most cherished child, no matter how old he/she was, it can be helpful to talk with someone.”

“After the death of a child, you discover what’s deeply important to you,” Wennogle says. “The empty place in your heart will always be there, but in moving forward times of peace will occur.”

To learn more about Support after the Death of a Child, or other Mount Evans bereavement groups and services, visit MountEvans.org, or call 303-674-6400.